China pulled off a stunning win over Japan at the Sudirman Cup 2019 final in Nanning on Sunday. Although the pundits predicted a Chinese victory, none expected a 3-0 whitewash. In doing so, China regained the Cup that had been lost to Korea two years ago.
Storming out of the starting blocks, Li and Liu wrapped up the men's doubles 21-18, 21-10 in under an hour. With pace, power and finesse, the Chinese pair made short work of Endo and Watanabe. The Japanese team was picked ahead of Kamura and Sonoda, a selection that was hard to understand, considering Watanabe's inclusion in the mixed doubles team. Had the tie gone to the decider, Watanabe's determination and endurance would certainly have been put to the test.
However, China had no intention to prolong the final. Chen Yufei was on next against the formidable Akane Yamaguchi. Having already won a couple of big tournaments this year, including the Badminton Asia Championships, Yamaguchi was in scintillating form.
Although her right knee was heavily strapped to control a prevailing injury, she was in the driver's seat with an 11-6 lead at the mid-game interval of the third game. Loss of concentration led to a handful of mistakes, that got Chen Yufei on level terms when play resumed.
There was no looking back from there, as the raucous Chinese crowd urged their player on to a 17-21, 21-16, 21-17 victory. It was certainly an upset as the odds were in favour of a Japanese victory in the women's singles match.
However, even that upset wasn't as upsetting as the one that was to follow. Kento Momota, heralded as the next Lin Dan, took to court to face Yuqi Shi. The first game went as predicted and Momota was on track to victory after bagging the opener 21-15.
Unbelievably, Yuqi Shi upped his game to such an extent that he took the second game 21-5. The crowd went wild! Their support infused Yuqi Shi with a boost of adrenaline to close out the match in fine style, beating Momota 21-11 in the third game.
As Jia Yifan, followed by the rest of the Chinese team, rushed to embrace Yuqi Shi, the badminton world was witness to the dawn of the next generation of great Chinese badminton maestros.
After the loss to Korea in 2017, China's dominance was in question. But, with their 11th Sudirman Cup victory, China has once again cemented its place as the best badminton playing nation in the world.